Q&A with June O’Sullivan
Q&A with June O’Sullivan – Recruitment & Retention at the London Early Years Foundation
This month, we chatted with June O’Sullivan, an inspiring speaker, author and regular media commentator on all things Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty. For over 10 years, June O’Sullivan has been instrumental in driving a major strategic, pedagogical and cultural shift for Early Years education— introducing a new childcare model and stronger social impact through her work at the award-winning London Early Years Foundation (LEYF).
Here, we learn about how LEYF plan to tackle the current recruitment and retention challenges, their new rewards package and how they engage and motivate their current employees.
How are you finding the current staffing crisis?
As with most of our colleagues in the sector, we’ve certainly felt the challenge of recruiting quality staff. This is why we are calling on the Government to increase funding and raise the status (i.e. public-facing) for the Early Years sector and to take action specifically to address this crisis.
How does LEYF attract new hires and how do you stay competitive in terms of attracting new staff?
We use a multi-channel approach when it comes to our marketing and recruitment in order for us to target different demographics located in different places.
Many of our staff join LEYF because of our social purpose and we continually try to balance our purpose to change the world one child at a time whilst also showing that it is possible to be a really good employer, pay above the sector average whilst continuing to provide a range of support benefits and training opportunities.
For example, last month all staff across our 39 social enterprise nurseries and central office staff received a 3.5% salary increase (including Bank staff and apprentices). In addition to the salary rise, a small bonus was given to all permanent staff regardless of their position and awarded pro-rata based on the number of hours worked during the current financial year. This was to acknowledge the vital and valued contribution from all our staff during a period of uncertainty and also to attract new talent into the organisation.
Other benefits for all permanent staff which allow us to remain competitive include having your birthday off as an extra day’s leave and the value of long service awards has been increased. There were also additional rises for Level 3 LEYF teachers and Room Leaders who are so critical to delivering a quality pedagogy to the children and their families.
How does LEYF retain talented staff?
In addition to putting our staff first and investing in a significant package of rewards, whilst paying above the sector average, here at LEYF we are all about the Early Years being a career and not just a job. This is why we offer all staff 8x days of paid-for training a year plus we have a brilliant Learning & Development team who teach our staff to be the very best at what they do through our unique pedagogy. Our Talent Enrichment Programme also ensures that every member of staff has the opportunity to develop their career and work towards their next step. That’s why we have lots of staff who have been with us for many years.
We also ensure that wellbeing is at the very heart of what we do when it comes to our employees and workplace culture. This is not an add on but central to our practice and means our staff feel more comfortable about including their personal and private selves in their professional lives.
How does LEYF engage and motivate their current employees?
June O’Sullivan recently wrote a book on well-being for Early Years professionals called Think Feel Do and, as a result, it has been wonderful seeing many of our nursery staff using activities from the book and thinking about their well-being together and, of course, with the children.
We try to foster a culture of sharing whereby staff share the things they have been doing with the children in their nursery. They give each other tips and suggestions for activities whilst also encouraging each other. June also knows every staff member by name and likes to send cards and really engage with them personally. Given that LEYF is a big organisation, we know that this is really important as it shows staff how appreciated they are.
How does LEYF encourage a diverse and inclusive workforce?
Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of LEYF’s mission. Our model is that we do no segregate fee-paying and funded children in nurseries, and we have nurseries in a variety of different socio-economic areas of London to promote the inclusion and diversity of the workforce and the children attending.
Amongst many of our initiatives, our campaign Men in Childcare encourages more men to consider Early Years as a career choice and raises the profile of men working in childcare. We are proud to have an all-male apprentice cohort running currently. Our apprentice programme also pays well above the industry average, which gives more opportunities to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we have a hardship fund for any member of staff who may need extra support. Finally, we have strong inclusion and diversity policies and we have a staff council to encourage feedback and ensure everyone has a voice.